Enveloped animal viruses fuse their membrane with a host cell membrane, thus delivering the virus genetic material into the cytoplasm and initiating infection. This critical membrane fusion reaction is mediated by a virus transmembrane protein known as the fusion protein, which inserts its hydrophobic fusion peptide into the cell membrane and refolds to drive the fusion reaction. This review describes recent advances in our understanding of the structure and function of the class II fusion proteins of the alphaviruses and flaviviruses. Inhibition of the fusion protein refolding reaction confirms its importance in fusion and suggests new antiviral strategies for these medically important viruses.
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